Survivors taking on powerful US gun lobby

High school students holding a rally to call for safer gun laws, outside the North Carolina State Capitol building on Tuesday. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has reignited the debate over gun control i
High school students holding a rally to call for safer gun laws, outside the North Carolina State Capitol building on Tuesday. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has reignited the debate over gun control in the US. Critics of gun control laws have vowed to make the Feb 14 tragedy a turning point in the deadlocked debate.
Alex Wind (above), Cameron Kasky and Lorena Sanabria survived the mass shooting.
Alex Wind (above), Cameron Kasky and Lorena Sanabria survived the mass shooting.
Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky (above) and Lorena Sanabria survived the mass shooting.
Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky (above) and Lorena Sanabria survived the mass shooting.
Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky and Lorena Sanabria (above) survived the mass shooting.
Alex Wind, Cameron Kasky and Lorena Sanabria (above) survived the mass shooting.

About 100 student survivors of the Florida school shooting tragedy planned to hold a gun control rally yesterday at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

They have vowed to make the Feb 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a turning point in America's deadlocked debate on gun control by taking part in rallies, organising social media campaigns and appearing on talk shows to get their message across.

Apart from the Florida rally, the students are also planning a March For Our Lives in Washington next month, while sister rallies are set to take place around the country.

Here are some of the students who survived the mass shooting and vowed "Never Again".

ALEX WIND, 17

Alex was in drama class when the fire alarm went off at around 2.20pm on Feb 14.

In the distance, he watched as three security guards approached another campus building, looked inside and then turned around in horror.

"They looked right at me and said, 'Go back! Go back! Go back!' " he recalls. "And that's when we heard the first gunshots."

After pushing his classmates back inside the room, he texted his parents. "I think there's a shooter on campus... I love you guys."

Together with his best friend Cameron Kasky and another student, Sofie Whitney, he launched "Never Again MSD", which hopes to channel a fresh round of national outrage at gun violence into a campaign to make significant changes to the nation's gun laws.

In just three days, the group's leadership has grown to include more than 20 Douglas students, and its Twitter account had amassed more than 55,000 followers as of yesterday.

CAMERON KASKY, 17

Cameron has blasted both Republican and Democratic politicians for not doing anything.

"We can't ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises," he wrote in an online essay.

"And so, I'm asking - no, demanding - we take action now."

President Donald Trump, who received US$30 million from the National Rifle Association during his election campaign, has suggested the root cause of mass shootings, including the Parkland massacre, was a crisis of mental health - and defied calls to address gun control.

LORENA SANABRIA, 16

In an emotional interview in which she frequently fought back tears, the dark-haired teen admitted that despite a keen interest in women's rights and equality, she had never considered herself particularly interested in politics - until now.

"I think that now more than ever, us as students, we should use our voice, you know the voices through the cameras - we should use this to speak directly to the government... and beg them to please make changes to the policies," she said.

Among the policies Lorena wants to see reformed is the ease with which shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase his military-grade AR-15 assault rifle legally, because he did not have a criminal record.

"It shouldn't be normal that parents should be worrying about sending their kids with bulletproof backpacks" to school, she added.

SOURCES: WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES, THE SUN SENTINEL

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Survivors taking on powerful US gun lobby'. Print Edition | Subscribe